A judge has dropped a second-degree murder charge against a 15-year-old who fatally stabbed another teenager after he was attacked, citing a law in Florida that allows an individual to meet force with force if they fear for his/her life.

The “Stand Your Ground” law says that a person has no duty to retreat if attacked and can use even deadly force if they feel their life is in danger . At least 17 states have a version of this law, including Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Washington. If the boy had been in a state without the law, he might not have escaped prosecution.

Supporters of the law says that it gives individuals a legal right to self-defense. Critics fear that it will give license to people — including teenagers who are being bullied at school — to use violence to solve a conflict when they could actually retreat and avoid a confrontation.

In the Florida case, Jorge Saavedra was 14 years old when he fought back after being hit by 16-year-old Dylan Nuno, the Naples Daily News in Florida reported. The boys both attended Palmetto Ridge High School in Collier County, and there had been several altercations between the two. One day last January, some teens announced on a bus that there would be a fight that involved Nuno and Saavedra.

Saavedra, who was carrying a pocket knife, got off the bus several stops before the spot designated for the fight, a move the judge said showed he wanted to avoid a fight.

But, the newspaper reported, witnesses testified that Nuno got off the bus after Saavedra and punched him in the head. A fight ensued and Saavedra stabbed Nuno 12 times in the chest and abdomen. Nuno’s heart was nicked and he died.

Collier County Circuit Court Judge Lauren Brodie, in her order, does not use the word “bullying,” the Naples Daily News reported, but defense attorneys frequently used it in court.

Nuno’s family and friends said he was not a bully and that he had transferred to Palmetto Ridge High from another school to “escape taunting himself.”

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